Equality Ride: Starting a dialogue? Part Two

Here is a press release from SoulForce about Regent University. In contrast to this release, I had a conversation with Mark Yarhouse at Regent today about several matters and in the process he let me know that he was disappointed about how Equality Ride has misreprented Regent. He was looking forward to having some of the riders in on of his classes and a number of other activities were planned on campus. According to Mark, Regent backed out because the leadership could not trust the Riders to be truthful. If the Eriders said Regent was refusing dialogue (which they did on their website) at the very same time Regent was planning it, then the leadership of Regent did not feel they could trust the Riders to be honest about what went on while on campus. My impression (not Mark’s) is that Soulforce was especially anxious to give Falwell and Robertson a black eye. Every one knows there is a history between Mel White and Falwell and Robertson.

Regent University Uninvites Equality Riders, Banning the Gay Activists from Campus
Download this press release as an Adobe PDF document.
Pat Robertson’s Regent University has rescinded their previous welcome to the Equality Riders, stating they now refuse dialogue and that the riders presence will constitute trespassing.

Virginia Beach, VA (PRWEB) March 11, 2006 — Despite previously having agreed to a day of dialogue with the Soulforce Equality Riders, Pat Robertson’s Regent University has now rescinded their invitation, refusing discussion and stating that their presence on campus will constitute trespassing. Regent University is the second stop for this group of young adults on a two-month journey to Christian colleges and military academies that ban GLBT enrollment.

This comes after 24 people, some Equality Riders and other supporters from nearby colleges were arrested at Liberty University. “We had remained optimistic, despite nearly six weeks of unreturned phone calls and emails, that forums for genuine dialogue would emerge,” says Equality Rider Chad Grandy, the point person for Regent University.

=Not so, according to Mark. Forums were in planned and in place.

On February 21, the webpage on the Equality Ride site was updated to reflect the nature of that continuing dialogue, stating: Regent University has refused dialogue thus far with the Equality Ride, but the riders are undeterred in their hope for dialogue with the school. On February 22, the riders received a positive response from the University with a proposed schedule for the two days on campus.

On February 25, a subsequent press release from the Equality Ride quoted Vice President of Academic Affairs Randall Pannell when he said “We at Regent University are looking forward to the Equality Ride’s visit, and are trying to prepare so that this will be a positive experience for both Equality Ride, as well as Regent University.” In that same press release, Equality Ride Co-Director Jacob Reitan commended the school’s choice to embrace academic freedom and discussion. As of March 7 Regent is now closed to dialogue and access, citing two issues, one the continued presence on the Equality website of the phrase, “…Regent University has refused dialogue…but the riders are undeterred.” The second issue is the riders’ statement that Regent indeed has a policy banning GLBT students. “This was true before the February 22 communication from Pannell, and it remains true. The school did tacitly refuse any dialogue.”

This is hair splitting on the part of Equality Ride. Regent wanted to be treated as well as the effort had treated Biola and ACU by reflecting the nature of Regent’s involvement. Mark had worked hard to make access and dialogue possible. And anyone who knows Mark would believe this to be true.

Regent did not request that this statement change prior to fully recanting on the schedule. Pannell writes in the withdrawal letter, “In spite of the fact that the Soulforce Equality Ride is aware that we have no such policies, the facts continue to be misstated.” The activists recently discovered that the University does have a stated policy that appears to ban homosexual enrollment. The handbook reads “…homosexual conduct or any other conduct, which violates Biblical standards, is prohibited.” While the school maintains the policy refers to behavior, the Equality Riders are concerned it may be a form of discrimination. The Equality Ride is an action of Soulforce, an activist organization committed to ending the stigmatization of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people–stigmatization caused by religion based bias. ###

Now I don’t know everything and am always open to new information but what I am hearing from Mark leads me to think Regent was wise not to cooperate. You can’t act in bad faith (Equality Ride) and then expect to get cooperation.